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Suspect held in Gastonia killings

Gastonia police have identified the two men who were found dead in a parked car Friday night.

Police on Saturday said the victims were Michael Anthony Rice Jr., 24, of Gastonia, and Jerry Lenneil Richardson, 24, of Kings Mountain.

Rice was going to turn 25 on June 17, and Richardson celebrated his birthday last week.

About 8:15 p.m. Friday, a man walking on Titman Road near South New Hope Road discovered the bodies, police said. Rice and Richardson had multiple gunshot wounds, according to a release from Gastonia police.

Police arrested Michael Tyler Walters, 18, of Gastonia and charged him with two counts of first-degree murder, the release said.

Walters was found inside a house in the 4100 block of Titman Road, which is where the vehicle Rice and Richardson were in was parked.

Walters was booked into the main Gaston County jail about 3:30 a.m. Saturday under no bond.

The suspect and the victims had previous encounters with the criminal justice system.

Walters was charged with felony larceny in 2011 but that charge was dismissed in March.

Richardson had a pending felony charge for identity theft.

Rice was found guilty of two felony drug charges, one for marijuana possession in 2011 and possession with the intent to sell marijuana in February.

Double homicides rare

Police have not said why the shootings happened.

Police officials could not immediately say on Saturday how many homicides there have been in the city this year, but double homicides remain a rarity for Gastonia.

Karen Foster, a telecommunicator for the Gastonia Police Department, has worked for the agency for the past 18 years and said she can only recall one other double homicide which happened more than a decade ago in Gaston County.

Staff researcher Marion Paynter contributed.

Ruebens: 704-358-5294
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